I chose this title, partly because JK Rowling is one of my all-time heroes but partly because I believe she just summed up this subject so damn right!
‘Dementors are amongst the foulest things that walk this earth, they glory in decay and despair. Get too near a dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory, will be sucked out of you’.
Yep. JK Rowling was bang on with this fictional creature! It’s difficult to describe the type of vulnerability that depression brings and I don’t want to sum up anybody else’s experiences because it is very personal but from my experience this is what I came up with: Depression is like continually being naked in front of people. That is how vulnerable and terrified you are. When you’re not depressed you have your armour on, your protection that stops small blows becoming bigger. With depression though your armour is not there and therefore every small scratch to the arm becomes an axe wound to the head that makes it impossible to get up.
So it’s all very well and good to come up with a metaphor or summary of depression but that’s not really the issue is it? The issue is curing it. With 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health issue EACH YEAR, this is not something that can be glossed over with fancy phrases. It’s serious. We all know that. We don’t have to have statistics shouted at us to understand the devastating reality of this illness. In my eyes this still takes us back to two questions: why is there still a stigma behind mental illness? And what is the cure? And I believe that these two questions interlink completely. The cure is to remove the stigma.
Yes I would agree that the stigma has got better over the past few years, with campaigns and media campaigns helping to get people talking about it but it is still more acceptable to call in sick to work with a physical illness than a mental one! Despite the fact that depression leaves you feeling anxious, sick, exhausted, unable to concentrate etc etc.I’m sure any employer and any human would agree that if you are feeling like this you are unfit for work and yet whilst 77% of people are happy to call in sick for a physical illness, this number drops drastically to only 39% when calling in sick for a mental illness. This needs to stop! We already have a mental health crisis in this country and if depression continues to hold this stigma of being weak, unable to cope or just ‘copping off’ then this crisis will continue to grow and explode.
I watched a fantastic TED talk the other day by Guy Winch called ‘why we all need to practice emotional first aid’, which summed up for me our need to treat mental illness the same as physical illness. See the link below!
In it he makes an obvious yet fascinating point in my eyes ‘We wouldn’t get a knife and make a cut deeper but we do this with psychological injuries all the time’. He is SO right and I am completely guilty of it. Why? Because it still carries a stigma. Because the strength it takes to walk into a doctor’s surgery and say ‘I need help. I can no longer carry on living my life like this’ is DAMN BLOODY HARD. But it is not impossible.
I don’t have a cure. If I did I would be rich and famous, but if I can encourage even one person to seek help then this blog post will have been worth it. It can be cured but we need to not be afraid of asking for help. We need to not be afraid of practising emotional first aid!